Carob is the substitute of choice for benzoate intolerant people wishing to make a chocolate-tasting desert or drink. A relative of cocoa, it is not the same thing, nor is it cacao either (cacao is apparently just another name for cocoa,and certainly contains the same benzoates as cocoa). Carob is more cheaply manufactured, often used in ‘chocolate-flavour’ toppings on cheap sweets and ice creams, and rarely found in supermarkets. It is best purchased as a plain powder, either online or in a good local health food store.
Some people say that carob tastes more bitter than cocoa. I personally have never found that to be the case. Plain cocoa by itself is so bitter that it was used in ancient times in southern America as a spice along with chilli! If you have ever tasted raw cocoa (WITHOUT added sugar of any sort) you will find that it is horribly bitter and sharp and quite possibly the worst tasting food ingredient of any sort. Its hard to believe that something so foul can be turned into chocolate – when I miss ‘real’ chocolate it helps me to recall just how horrible raw cocoa actually is!
Carob contains some natural sugars, which cocoa doesn’t, and although the taste is slightly different, I personally would categorise it as having a somewhat nuttier, more rounded flavour than cocoa, but certainly not any more bitter. It does, like cocoa, need to be consumed alongside sugar and is unpalatable by itself. I think the danger is that some people will compare plain carob powder to drinking chocolate, the traditional ‘cocoa’ drink, which actually has far more sugar in it than actual cocoa!
In order to make a nice hot drink, I have found you do need more plain carob powder than you would use plain cocoa powder – to make traditional hot chocolate, it is usual to only add 1 teaspoon of cocoa but when using carob, it tastes far better and more authentic if you use around double that amount.
Hot Carob drink – Ingredients (per person)
1 mug of milk (either dairy, oat, oat, rice or almond)
2 – 3 teaspoons of plain carob powder (or to taste)
2 – 3 teaspoons of sugar (or to taste)
OPTIONAL – a dash of squirty or whipped cream and some mini marshmallows (check that ingredients are safe before purchasing)
1. pour all the milk barring a small drop into a saucepan or microwave-proof container and heat until nearly boiling
2. whilst waiting for the milk, add carob and sugar to the drop of cold milk left in your mug, and mix together to form a smooth paste
3. when the milk is hot, pour it slowly onto your carob paste, stirring well to ensure it is combined. Either put the mixed drink back into the pan to finish boiling (if you like a very hot drink), or leave as it is (if you prefer it somewhat cooler).
4. top with cream and marshmallows (if using), sit back and enjoy!